UPDATE: As of December 2019, Sightbox has shutdown all customer-facing operations.
If your vision isn’t perfect, you probably have a love-hate relationship with contacts. Inserting lenses directly onto your eyeball every morning can be scary, uncomfortable, expensive, and just too much effort. But the benefits over glasses are clear.
For those who wear contacts everyday or are considering giving them a try, you’re in luck. New online subscription providers like Waldo, Hubble, and (formerly) SightBox make it easier than ever to buy contact lenses for a reasonable price without worrying about refills. These services are definitely convenient, and can likely save you a decent chunk of change. In this article we compare them — Waldo vs Hubble — the two leading contact lens subscription services vying to correct your vision.
How are Hubble, Waldo, & SightBox different than traditional optometrists?
Let’s quickly go over these services to see how they differ from most people’s experience buying contacts today, which looks something like this:
- Find a local optometrist to examine your eyes and recommend lenses. Pay a copay (if you have vision insurance) or 100% out of pocket (if you don’t). Regardless, it’s hard to know if you’re getting a deal and a pain hassling with insurance.
- Later on you return to the optometrist to have your contacts fitted. It’s difficult to know what brands are best, so mostly folks go with whatever the doc recommends, even if it’s more expensive. You can save by buying in bulk, but then you’re locked in.
- Once a year, patients typically visit their optometrist to have their eyes re-checked and reorder more contacts.
There’s nothing wrong with this arrangement, but firms like Waldo and Hubble clearly saw room for improvement. Here’s what it’s like to order contact lenses from either service:
- If you already know your prescription, skip ahead to step #2. Otherwise first find an optometrist to examine your eyes and prescribe contacts. Pay out of pocket or with insurance for both.
- Sign up on HiWaldo.com or Hubblecontacts.com and enter a few details. They both offer generous free trials!
- Get a month’s supply of daily contacts delivered to your door for ~$35 bucks.
- Cancel, pause, or update your subscription any time from your computer. No more expensive visits to the optometrist just to get another batch. It’s just that simple.
SightBox is a bit different, but also preying on convenience seekers. Offering a hybrid between your traditional optometrist and a newfangled subscription approach, here’s how it works:
- Sign up for an account on the SightBox website, and they pay for you to meet with a local optometrist for an eye exam and contact fitting.
- Whichever contacts your doc recommends, Sightbox will deliver them to your door for $39-$89 / month, depending on your usage frequency (dailies vs. bi-weeklies vs. monthlies).
- They work with your insurance for you and allow you to pay one flat rate every month regardless of the contact brand you choose.
So wait, why are DTC contact subscriptions from Waldo and Hubble better?
If the benefits aren’t immediately clear, here’s a shortlist of reasons contact wearers value these new subscription services:
- No need to deal with insurance
- Less frequent doctor visits
- More predictable, transparent monthly payments
- Lower cost overall
- More flexibility (whether it’s changing the frequency of delivery on the fly, pausing shipments for a month, changing how you pay, etc.)
The hardest part about making the switch for most people? Apparently it’s telling their doctor. If you’re worried about it, don’t be. Online shopping has infiltrated just about every other business, so your optometrist should hardly be surprised when you let him or her know you no longer plan to buy contacts the old fashioned way. The only downside is that most optometrists don’t have any experience with Hubble or Waldo contacts yet, or at least not nearly as much as they do with brands they sell themselves, so they won’t be as helpful. Just something to consider.
Waldo vs Hubble: Which is the best contact subscription?
There are a few key differences between these online providers. Use this chart to help you compare Hubble and Waldo head-to-head and identify potential deal breakers:
Hubble vs Waldo: Top Contact Lens Subscription Comparison
|Comprehensive Eye Exam||No||No||Yes|
|Contact Lens Fitting||No||No||Yes|
|Free Trial||First 10 pairs free (just pay $2.95 for shipping)||First 15 pairs free (just pay $1 for shipping)||No free trial|
$36 per month
$36 per month
|$39 – $89 per month (including shipping)|
|Brands Offered||Waldo||Hubble||Biofinity, Acuvue, Bausch + Lomb, CooperVision, and most well-known contact options|
|Replacement Schedule||Daily lenses, 30 per box||Daily lenses, 30 per box||Depends on brand|
|Can pay with FSA (Flexible Spending Account)?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Offers Toric Lenses for (Astigmatism)?||Not yet||Not yet||Yes|
|Offers Multifocal/Bifocal Lenses?||Not yet||Not yet||Yes|
|Has In-House Optician||Yes||No||No|
|Website||Visit Waldo||Visit Hubble||Visit SightBox|
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Perhaps the most fundamental difference between Hubble and Waldo? The lenses themselves. Hubble and Waldo offer their own proprietary brands that have both met FDA standards and are produced by reputable manufacturers in Taiwan. Obviously they haven’t been battle tested nearly as much as say, CooperVision Biofinity XR or Acuvue Oasys lenses, but the question really is, should the quality of Waldo and Hubble contacts good enough?
Who makes higher quality contacts, Hubble or Waldo?
Convenience and cost aside, here’s a chart to help you quickly compare the specs of the Hubble, Waldo, and SightBox’s lenses:
Contact Lens Quality Comparison
|UV-Protection||70% UVA and 95% UVB||80% UVA and 95% UVB||Varies by brand|
|% Water||58%||55%||Varies by brand|
|Manufactured by||Pegavision in Taiwan||Yung Sheng in Taiwan||Varies by brand|
|Lens Diameter||14.2mm||14.2mm||Varies by brand|
|Power Range||+4.00D to -12.00D||+6.00 to -12.00D||Varies by brand|
|Base curve||8.5mm||8.6mm||Varies by brand|
|Material||Etafilcon A||Methafilcon A||Varies by brand|
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What do consumers say about Waldo and Hubble?
Ultimately your eyes are sensitive and it’s not worth gambling on quality. To truly find out if contacts from Hubble and Waldo hold a candle to household brands like Acuvue and Bausch + Lomb, it’s tempting to read consumer reviews online. (Spoiler alert: it’s an unhelpful cacophony.) Skeptics of Hubble and Waldo worry about the upstart because it lacks a long track record of success. They also claim that Hubble lenses use old technology (hydrogel lenses rather than Silicone Hydrogel) that don’t allow as much oxygen to the corneas as other brands. But for every detractor, there’s just as many or more vocal champions singing the startups’ praises. Convenience, low price, and quality experience are echoed in their refrains.
Feel free to explore the rabbit hole of Hubble and Waldo customer reviews if you dare:
My personal experience with Waldo vs Hubble
Everyone’s eyes are different. Thus I’m afraid an account of my own experience testing each lens wouldn’t be particularly helpful. While I have nothing bad to report about their quality, my best recommendation is to evaluate them yourself. Sign up for a free trial of both Hubble and Waldo today. You’ll get 10-15 days of free contact lenses (25 if you sign up for both 😎), and you can cancel right away if they aren’t the right fit. Nothing to lose really, and a whole lot to gain.
If you’re curious what it’s like to get Waldo contacts in the mail and how they are packaged, you can watch my quick unboxing video:
The Verdict: Hubble vs Waldo
Direct-to-consumer startups Waldo and Hubble have raised millions of dollars of venture capital and are successfully disrupting the contact lens market. Each champions a slightly different contact subscription offering that promises to deliver quality lenses to your door with greater convenience, lower prices, and more flexibility than the status quo. Having gotten to review these products myself, I can say it’s a great time to get vision care online!
The quality of daily lenses from newer brands such as Waldo and Hubble are relatively unproven compared to Acuvue or Biofinity, but millions of happy customers swear by them. Waldo’s 4/5 rating across 3600 reviews on TrustPilot, for instance, is an encouraging vote of confidence.
Ultimately the best solution for your eyes depends on how you wear contacts though. Important questions to consider include:
- Do you currently have a prescription for contact lenses?
- Do you have a contact lens brand that you LOVE or are you open to alternatives?
- Do you prefer to change your contacts daily, bi-weekly, or monthly?
- Do you have an astigmatism or presbyopia (i.e. need bifocal or toric lenses)?
Here are some final thoughts on who is likely to prefer Waldo over Hubble, and vice versa.
Final Review of Waldo
Waldo is a fantastic option for anyone who loves affordable convenience and already knows their contact lens prescription. When I reviewed their product, they worked well for me, and the free trial is a great way to find out if you’ll find them comfortable. (Check out the video review above to see what they look like.) Unfortunately if you wear bifocals or need correction for an astigmatism, Waldo can’t quite help you yet, but their own brand of FDA-approved daily lenses is worth trying. Especially since you can get 10 free pairs by clicking the image below! The brand also boasts an in-house optician that can help you answer questions, although we don’t know how available or valuable their advice will be.
Final Review of Hubble
Strikingly similar to Waldo, Hubble is also ideal for folks who already wear contacts. If you don’t, they offer a bit more help finding a local optometrist. Overall Hubble offers a month’s supply of daily contacts for a few dollars cheaper than Waldo (although they pass on the cost of shipping, which may make them slightly more expensive depending where you live.) Their free trial is even more generous than Waldo’s (click the image below to get 15 free pairs!), their lenses’ UV protection is slightly higher, and they accommodate a slightly larger range of lens powers – so we have to give them a positive review as well.
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For what it’s worth: SightBox — owned by Johnson & Johnson but now defunct — was yet another great option for contacts online. At $89 per month for daily contact lenses, it was more than double the cost of either Hubble or Waldo. But their price included annual eye exams and contact lens fittings, and they allowed you to continue wearing the contact lens brand of your choice. To summarize, SightBox was ideal for anyone who:
- doesn’t have a prescription already
- needs vision correction for an astigmatism or needs multifocal lenses (neither Hubble nor Waldo can help you here)
- has finally found a contact lens brand they love and doesn’t want to switch